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“We gather here in London today, but I know that our thoughts are with our fellow citizens in another English city – Salisbury.

Everyone in this hall, and everyone in our Party, stands in solidarity with the people of Salisbury.

We pay tribute to the bravery of all the emergency services, doctors, nurses and investigation teams who have led the response to the appalling incident which occurred there.

And I also want to pay tribute today to Salisbury’s fantastic MP John Glen – he is the pattern of a dedicated constituency member and he has stood up for his community at this difficult time. Thank you John.

I set out in the House of Commons this week the Government’s conclusion that the Russian state was culpable for the attempted murder of Mr Skripal and his daughter, and for threatening the lives of other British citizens.

I also set out the action we are taking in response.

Action to dismantle the Russian espionage network in the UK, to develop new powers to tackle hostile state activity, and the suspension of all planned high-level contact between the UK and the Russian Federation.​

Today our Ambassador in Moscow was informed by the Russian government of the action they are taking in response. 

In light of their previous behaviour, we anticipated a response of this kind and we will consider our next steps in the coming days, alongside our allies and partners.

But Russia’s response doesn’t change the facts of the matter – the attempted assassination of two people on British soil, for which there is no alternative conclusion other than that the Russian State was culpable.

It is Russia that is in flagrant breach of international law and the Chemical Weapons Convention.

I repeat today that we have no disagreement with the Russian people.

Many Russians have made this country their home.

And those who abide by our laws and make a contribution to our society will always be welcome.

But we will never tolerate a threat to the life of British citizens and others on British soil from the Russian Government.

We can be reassured by the strong support we have received from our friends and allies around the world.

From the United States, NATO and the European Union.

From our UN and Commonwealth partners.

I am grateful too for the strong support I have received from the First Ministers of Scotland and Wales.

And in the House of Commons this week, we saw a consensus as member after member, across all parties, stood up to condemn Russia’s actions and to support the position of Her Majesty’s Government.

Because this act of Russian aggression is the very antithesis of the liberal and democratic values that define the United Kingdom.

The rule of law. Freedom of speech. The toleration of dissenting and minority views. A free press. Fair and democratic elections. A thriving civil society.

These are the foundation stones of human freedom.

They don’t come about by accident, and they are certainly not the default setting for any society.

They take years of patient work to build up, they face constant threats, and they must always be defended.

They are the values which unite us as a country.

Conservative values

And it is about values that I want to speak to you today.

Because just as our country’s defining values underpin our response to the Salisbury attack…

…so our Party’s commitment to Conservative values defines our whole approach to politics and government.

We in this Party are the heirs of a proud tradition underpinned by enduring principles.

First, our belief in security.

We want everyone to have the economic security of a good job, a decent wage, and a home to call their own.

We want people to have the personal security of a great National Health Service that is there for us when we need it.

And we are the Party of national security, backing our armed forces, our police and our security services who protect us every day.

As well as for security, we stand for opportunity.

We back aspiration and ambition.

We want everyone, from every background, to be able to go as far as their talents and hard work can take them.

We want every child to get the best start in life and for each generation to do better than the last. 

And through security and opportunity, we want people to enjoy freedom and happiness in every aspect of their lives.

The economic freedom to make your own choices, pursue your own dreams and enjoy the earned rewards of your efforts.

And personal freedom too – freedom of speech, freedom of thought, freedom of conscience.

Security, opportunity and freedom.

These are the timeless values which drive us. 

And they are values which speak to everyone in our country.

Because the Conservative Party is not for any narrow interest, not for a particular class or a particular region.

We are a Party that works for the common good of everyone in our society.

We are the Party that puts the national interest first.

Because if something is in the national interest, it is always in the Conservative interest.

Values in action

“And we see our guiding principles applied wherever Conservatives are in power.

We see it at the local level, where brilliant Conservative councils keep taxes low so people can keep more of the money they earn…

…and deliver high-quality services for those who rely on them.

It is on those strong records of local delivery that Conservative candidates across England will proudly stand in the local elections this May.

And we see those values underpinning our work at a national level too.

We are the Party that is acting on the democratic will of the British people by delivering Brexit…

…completing the first phase of discussions with the EU last year, and continuing our progress in the months since.

And we are the Party that understands the need for a strong economy, pursuing policies which deliver sustained growth and record jobs, and pursuing a modern Industrial Strategy to help all parts of the UK benefit from economic opportunity.

On Brexit and on the economy, the British people can see that the Conservative Party is acting on its values and delivering for them.

But there is another area of our national life which is equally important.

And that is our key public services.

Here, some people question our motives.

They wonder whether we care enough about our NHS and schools.

Whether we truly respect the people who work in them.

And understand that people rely on them. 

Now, I know what our answer would be.

Everyone in this Party cares deeply about our public services.

We use them. We rely on them. Many of us work in them.

We each have our own story of how they have been there for us through our lives.

Mine starts with the state schools that helped me to get into a great university and set me on course for a rewarding career.

As a local councillor and constituency MP, I have seen first-hand how important public services are to people from all walks of life.

And when I was diagnosed with diabetes, the NHS was there for me.

Skilled and compassionate, helping me every step of the way to manage my condition and live a normal life. 

I rely on the NHS every day and I am eternally grateful to them.

That is an experience replicated right across the country, by people of all political persuasions.

We know how much we care about our vital public services, and we know we have a strong record of delivery in government.

So we might think that the public’s doubts about us are unfair.

But they are a political fact which we must face up to.

So as we carry on delivering Brexit, and carry on taking the action needed to build an economy fit for the future…

…we as a Party, and as a Government, must mount a determined effort to win and keep the public’s trust in our management of public services.

To do that, we must be unafraid to speak out clearly and passionately about our values as Conservatives and what motivate us in politics.

While always defending our record in office, we also need to accept that our public services today do face real challenges, and we must be clear about the action we are taking to help them.

And we must also do something else – we need to win the argument that says it is only a strong economy that can provide the resources our public services need…

…and it is only by continuing to reform our public services that we can achieve the improved results which we all want.

Conservative belief in public services

“And when it comes to our values as Conservatives, we have nothing to fear and nothing to hide.

Because our central motivation is public service.

It is why I went into politics in the first place.

It is why so many of you in this room did too.

It’s why we go out and deliver leaflets, knock on doors, stand on street stalls.

Not for personal gain. But to serve our communities and our country.

That is an instinct which we share with millions of people who may not regard themselves a Conservatives, and may not vote for us at elections.

But just like us, they want to serve the greater good.

Not just teachers, doctors and police officers, but fire fighters, planning officers and social workers.

They dedicate their lives to helping their communities and serving the needs of others.

We should be confident that the values which motivate us as Conservatives speak to that profound impulse for public service.

And there is no ideological barrier to hold us back.

Because while we know that public service takes many forms and is never a monopoly of the state…

…Conservatives have always believed that a responsible and effective government has an essential role to play.

That starts with the very first duty of government: the defence of the realm and upholding the rule of law.

Without those essential foundations, nothing else is possible.

That’s why the attack in Salisbury was such an outrage, and why it warranted such a firm response.

That is why Conservatives have always backed the brave men and women of our armed forces, police and security services in the vital work they do to keep us safe, and why our commitment to them in the future is absolute.

But we know that the role of government doesn’t end there.

Because, for people to achieve their full potential, they also need high quality public services which only government has the power to guarantee.

A diverse education system, which allows every child to unlock his or her potential.

A first class health service, there for all of us when we need it, with care based on clinical need and never the ability to pay.

These and other public services have been built over time, and our Party has often been at the forefront of their development.

A Conservative created the modern police force.

Conservatives created the county councils.

During the Second World War, a Conservative education minister, Rab Butler established universal schooling…

…and a Conservative Health Minister, Henry Willink, published the first blue-print for a universal, free, health service.

It fell to Labour to create the NHS seventy years ago this summer, and it is rightly their proudest achievement.

But Conservatives backed its key principles then, and have supported them ever since.

Just four years after its creation, a Conservative Government took over the fledgling NHS and nurtured it for the next 13 years.

Indeed, for over 40 of the NHS’s 70 years, it has been under the care of Conservative ministers.

Conservatives created the GCSE, the National Curriculum and Free Schools.

We lifted the cap on the number of people going to university.

Conservatives defined the legal framework of modern policing, and established democratically-elected Police and Crime Commissioners.

For over a century, our Party has helped lead the way in establishing and extending public services in this country.

And we did all of these things not in spite of our Conservatism, but because of it.

Conservatism has always steered a middle course between ideological extremes.

Like the vast majority of the British people, we believe that while government doesn’t have all the answers, it does have a role, and part of that is a crucial responsibility to ensure the provision of high quality public services.

Importance of a strong economy

“And we also understand something else – the importance of a strong economy. 

We need thriving businesses to create the jobs that give financial security to their workers.

We know that when it is properly regulated and operates under the rule of law, an open market economy is the greatest agent of collective human progress the world has ever known.

And we need the revenue which a thriving economy generates to support our schools, hospitals and police service.

We also understand that government has to live within its means.

The British people know what happens when a government loses control of public spending – they saw what happened under Labour.

Because of the damage they did to our economy, last year we spent nearly £50 billion debt interest – more than we spend each year on schools.

Money that could be going to our public services, but which instead is going to our creditors.

That is the consequence of irresponsible economic policies and it is a lesson we must never forget.

So our values and motivations as Conservatives are clear: security, opportunity and freedom for everyone.

We know that excellent public services are essential to that mission.

We have a proud history of creating, extending and reforming them.

And we understand that it’s only through a strong economy that they can get the funding they need.

But we also need to be honest about some of the challenges our public services face today.

Some have had to make do with less and others have seen their budgets rise at a slower rate than they were used to.

For our dedicated public sector workers, who have experienced pay restraint, that has been difficult and it has meant sacrifices. 

I understand that. But these policies were essential, in order to deal with the deficit we inherited and put our country on a sound financial footing. 

And as the Chancellor set out this week, thanks to the hard work and sacrifice of the British people, we have now reached a turning point in our recovery, on the threshold of the first sustained fall in our country’s debt levels for 17 years.

Last year, thanks to our strengthened economic position, we were able to give the government more flexibility to adopt a balanced approach to public spending.

Continuing to deal with our debts, so that our economy remains strong and people’s jobs are protected.

And at the same time, making the investment in our public services that our successful management of the economy has made possible.

For our schools, that means an extra £1.3 billion over the next two years, to maintain per-pupil funding in real terms.

At the spring and autumn budgets last year, we put an extra £9 billion into the NHS and social care.

And for our dedicated public sector workers, it meant an end to the across-the-board 1% pay award policy.

And as the Chancellor said this week, if the public finances continue to improve, we will have capacity to increase public spending and investment further in the years ahead.

But we have only been able to put this additional funding into our public services and the pockets of public sector workers, because of our balanced approach to public spending and the economic growth which Conservative policies deliver.

Success of reform: education

“But if we look back over the last eight years, we can see that money alone is not the route to improvements in our public services.

We have shown that determined efforts to reform…

…to give greater freedom and accountability to our public servants…

…and to address the underlying causes of increasing demand…

…can lead to improved outcomes for everyone.

Take education.

Within a tight budget, we introduced major reforms to raise standards in schools, we targeted funding to help the most disadvantaged, and schools have achieved better outcomes for our young people as a result.

Nearly 2 million more pupils are now being educated in good or outstanding schools than eight years ago and England’s education performance is improving internationally.

Children from all backgrounds are doing better, but children from the most disadvantaged backgrounds are improving the fastest…

…with the attainment gap at primary and secondary school shrinking by almost 10% and more people from disadvantaged backgrounds making it to university than ever before.

We are raising the academic bar, so our children are among the best educated in the world…

…and we are narrowing the performance gap between rich and poor, so where you are born, who your parents are, how much money they have doesn’t define how far you will go in life.

And the independent inspectors at OFSTED said in their most recent annual report that: ‘the quality of education…provided to young people today is better than ever.’

So in the years ahead, we will keep up the pace of reform

We’ll continue with policies that work.

Like turning failing schools into academies.

A few years ago Levenshulme High School in Manchester was rated by OFSTED as ‘Inadequate.’

Since converting to an academy and changing its leadership, it is now rated as ‘Outstanding’.

For the people of that community, that improvement is life changing.

And we see the same success with free schools.

I have always believed in the potential of free schools – that’s why I put them in the Conservative election manifesto in 2001, as shadow education secretary.

And now free schools score some of the very highest results at GCSE.

Two of the top 10 schools in the country for progress – Dixons Trinity Academy in Bradford and Tauheedul Islam Boys’ High School in Blackburn – are free schools set up in areas of some of the highest deprivation in the country. 

This is what Conservatives do in Government.

And we are going further.

Delivering new Opportunity Areas to target additional resources to areas of the country struggling most with social mobility.

Helping schools to learn from each other’s successes, by encouraging collaboration between the state and the independent sectors, charities, universities and businesses.

And building on the success of school reform, we are implementing the biggest overhaul of technical education in England for a generation.

For years it has been treated as second best, but Conservatives are putting it back where it belongs as a first class alternative to academic study for our young people, backed up with a £500 million investment in new high-quality T levels.

And this month I launched a major review into the whole post-18 system, to deliver better value and greater access, so we can deliver the right education for each individual.

So yes, we are investing more resources in our education system, but we are also pressing on with the serious reforms which will deliver a better future for our young people.

Success of reform: health

“And we see the success of reform in our NHS too.

Since 2010 health spending has increased in real terms each and every year.

We have extended services, so everyone is on track to have extended access to GP services, including at evenings and weekends.

We are expanding primary care with more pharmacists and mental health therapists, so more care can be delivered closer to home.

We are spending more on mental health than ever, putting it on the path to full parity with physical health.

And there are now 43,000 more clinical staff caring for patients across our NHS.

Following the appalling tragedy of Mid Staffs, the NHS is well on the way to becoming one of the safest healthcare systems in the world.

Cancer survival rates are higher than ever.

Patient satisfaction is at its highest for more than two decades.

And the NHS has twice been independently rated the best healthcare system in the world.

But we know that the world does not stand still. 

Demand is rising, with more people attending A&E each day, more phoning 111, more going to see their GP.

More of us are living longer, and with more complex health needs.  

And the NHS has more treatments to offer each of us to meet those changing needs.

Despite the NHS overall being ranked as one of the most efficient healthcare systems in the world…

…we know there are areas where bureaucracy can be reduced, costs brought down and the variation in performance reduced.  

Indeed, we could dramatically improve the NHS’s performance if the excellence we see in parts of the service was spread across the whole system.

So we need to drive reform across the system at the same time as increasing funding, particularly at a time when we are all asking more from the service.  

That is why we as a government we have backed the NHS’s own plan, funded that plan, committed to further increases in our manifesto, and last year announced an additional £9billion for health and social care. 

So that in the year of its seventieth anniversary, we will take the action to ensure the NHS is there for its hundredth birthday, free at the point of use, paid for out of general taxation.

Success of reform: crime and policing

“It is not just in our schools and hospitals that we see substantial reform leading to better outcomes for the public.

The police budget is now protected, but after 2010 forces had to do more with less.

We helped them by stripping away unnecessary targets and giving them a single mission to fight crime.

We created PCCs to give local communities a voice.

And today, crime is down by a third since 2010 and victim satisfaction with the police remains high.

Criminals who are brought before our courts for serious offences are now more likely to go to prison, and more likely to stay there for longer.

But as technology changes, the nature of crime is changing with it.

So we established the National Crime Agency, to deal with serious and organised crime.

And we are investing £1.9 billion to support the National Cyber Security Strategy

And we will carry on giving our police the tools they need to fight crime and protect the public.

Last year we passed the Criminal Finance Act, giving law enforcement agencies the power to recover the proceeds of crime, tackle money laundering, and combat the financing of terrorism.

Last week we launched a consultation on a new Domestic Violence Bill, to protect victims and make sure agencies respond more effectively to this heinous crime.

This spring, we will publish a new Serious Violence Strategy, which will help steer young people away from a life of crime, while continuing to promote strong law enforcement.

And because we know that drugs are a serious driver of criminality, we are implementing a new drug strategy which will support people to recover from drug dependence and restrict the supply of illegal drugs.

Labour

“Compare the approach I have been setting out today…

…an approach rooted in the values of public service…

…based in economic reality…

…and engaging with the serious need to reform as well as invest in our public services…

…with what is on offer from the Labour Party.

Instead of policies which seek to bring our country together…

…Labour set out to mislead people about our policies.

Instead of a balanced approach to public spending…

… Labour want a return to massive borrowing for which ultimately we would all pay more.

And instead of offering serious ideas to reform and improve our public services…

…they simply make incredible promises to increase spending on everything, with no idea where the money would come from.

By their own admission, their economic policies would lead to a run on the pound.

And they would cripple our economy – just like last time.

That would threaten the livelihoods of working people and take the country back to where we were in 2010 – needing to make cuts to public spending.

We saw with his promise to ‘deal with’ student debt, Jeremy Corbyn cannot even be relied on to stick to his promises.

And when public services require credible investment and serious reform, all Labour offers is a return to the failed ideas of the past.

Time and again, they are on the wrong side of the argument and the wrong side of history.

Party of the future

“And in opposing a Labour Party wedded to the past, we must be a Party that offers hope for the future.

Hope for everyone in our country – people of every social background and race, of any religion and none, of women and men equally, of gay and straight, young and old.

And we should be optimistic about what we can achieve for everyone in our country in the years ahead.

Because when Brexit is done, and Britain steps into the new future that awaits us, I want it to be this party, the Conservative Party, that leads our country into the next decade and beyond.

By building a better future for everyone, by uniting the country, by delivering for every community. 

A Brexit that works for every man, woman and child in Britain.

An economy that is fit for the future.

And world class public services which are there for us all.

Making and winning the argument of the future.

That has always been our Party’s mission.

We have always been the party that seeks One Nation – the party which serves the national interest.

Which seeks to unite the country and help everyone live better lives.

Which breaks down the barriers which hold us back.

That is what we are doing in government today.

Making technical education just as good as academic.

Caring about mental health as much as we do about physical health.

Building homes, while protecting the environment.

Facing up to social injustices, like racial and gender discrimination.

Strengthening our Union of nations.

Supporting free markets but stepping in when they fail.

Delivering a Brexit that brings the country together.

That is the Conservative way.

Offering security, opportunity and freedom for all.

Delivering first class public services.

Governing in the national interest.

And building a country that works for everyone.”

106 comments for: “If something is in the national interest, it is always in the Conservative interest.” May’s speech to Spring Forum – full text

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